by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Covid-19 psychological effects on mental health are of great concern for Psycho-Social Unit
- Psycho-Social Support Unit helpline is 440-4787
- Researchers are calling for immediate studies on mental health impact
As Grenada continues to maintain the nationwide lockdown, in an effort to curb the further potential spreading of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), the psychological effects on people’s mental health are of great concern for the Psycho-Social Unit within the Ministry of Social Development Housing and Community Empowerment.
These trying times have certainly caused many people to experience heightened feelings of uncertainty, unrest and loneliness. But this pandemic could have profound and potentially long-term impacts on mental health especially for people with a preexisting mental condition and who are prone to relapses.
One of those people struggling with this reality is a 39-year-old female who for her protection will remain anonymous. She has come forward to speak openly about her condition after having recently experienced another mental breakdown during the Covid-19 lockdown. She told NOW Grenada that her last mental breakdown was nearly 3 years ago and during that time she was doing relatively fine having ensured that she continues to take her medication. Still, with the start of physical distancing protocols and the advice that people remained at home, she suddenly became overwhelmed which triggered another episode.
“In recent weeks, I had a relapse, and I believe it was due to information overload. I was consumed with news locally, regionally and internationally on the current global pandemic. My memory of what happened during the process is very faint,” she stated.
The 39-year-old has been coping with mental illness after her condition was first triggered during a stressful period. “I’ve been having challenges with mental health over 10 tears now; it started following a stressful period I was going through. Over the years I’ve received several diagnoses which with the last being bipolar disorder. My family throughout my struggle has been extremely supportive. I believe it is due to their support and care I can live a ‘normal’ life,” she said.
The individual is now among Grenadians who have since received counselling from the Psycho-Social Unit, which officially established a helpline where people can access any of their counselling or related services. People needing to speak with counsellors can access the helpline at 440-4787, as the Psycho-Social Support Unit has since transferred its existing clients to online counselling to ensure continued support.
She stated that prior to receiving counselling from the Psycho-Social Support Unit for the first time, which aided in her recovery, the usual method of treatment would have seen her institutionalised at the Mt Gay Psychiatric Hospital.
“I recall taking a higher dosage of my medication and resting a few days, then I was back to normal. I remember speaking with someone, and it was when I searched my cellphone I saw an unsaved number. When I called, I was in touch with a counsellor who spoke to me during my time of psychosis. Our conversation unveiled some very new and interesting facts about me and what I was going through, information that was never made known to me, as in the past I didn’t get any form of counselling during that state. Usually, I would be taken to the hospital and medicated. The support I received was a real eye-opener, and for that, I am truly grateful,” she explained.
The Psycho-Social Unit has since issued a release to highlight the need for the public in general, to maintain a healthy social life as they possibly can while being confined to their homes. “The impact of the physical distancing (since social connections must be maintained) of family and friends is of particular concern at this time. We are social beings and connecting with others is crucial to our survival. Social distancing and confinement trigger feelings of disruptions to our sense of safety and predictability. It also interrupts our coping strategies of the social variety, including walking, beach outings, going to the gym. For people with cognitive reasoning challenges, it is difficult to process the imposed confinements which disrupt the daily routines. Still, we know that human beings are quite resilient and will find ways to adapt to the changes around us. It is our duty to help others understand the importance of social distancing and encourage them to adhere.”
The ministry understands that this is a time of stress and anxiety for many of us which are quite normal. However, when anxiety becomes overwhelming to the point of panic where it affects daily functioning, then it becomes concerning. Situations like financial loss, caring for dependent family members, old and young, fear of dying, fear and worry over contracting Covid-19, isolation/enforced quarantine and not being able to provide physical support to loved ones at this time, are among a number of stressors faced by many. The aforementioned stressors may lead to associated behaviours including:
- Violent acts
- Unresolved Grief
- Irritability, impatience
- Physical health issues
- Mental health relapses
As a result, the Ministry of Social Development is advising that people be on the lookout for any unusual or out of character behaviour in their loved ones. The following are some behaviour patterns outlined by the ministry that people should look out for:
- Changes in sleeping and or eating patterns
- Exhibiting excessive worry or fear
- Suicide ideation
- Disruptions in their pattern of speech, nonsensical speaking
- Frequent chest pains or tightness, panic attacks
- Violent outbursts
- Increased substance abuse etc.
If you believe the person has become a danger to themselves or others, professional help should be sought as soon as possible.
The Psycho-Social Unit, in their statement, provided some mental health tips to stay healthy during isolation:
- Obey laws and protocols set up by the Ministry of Health
- Limit exposure to FAKE news and rumours. Listen to the news from a credible source
- Establish a new routine in the chaos
- Use relaxation techniques: deep breathing, meditation
- Connect with family and friends via WhatsApp, Facebook and other forms of social media
- Eat healthily and stay hydrated
- Find ways to exercise daily at home
- Get enough rest
- Find projects around the home to engage in, e.g. Do-It-Yourself activities
- Engage in hobbies- listen to music, gardening, crocheting
- Do fun exercises and activities with family. Have a sense of humour
- Spend extra time playing with children and create a sense of safety
- Engage in positive thinking, “I CAN HANDLE THIS”
- Use prayer to engender hope
- Be kind to others, listen to someone
- Find a lesson in the crisis; look for the positives
- Obey laws and protocols set up by the Ministry of Health
Meanwhile, researchers are calling for immediate studies into the mental health impact of coronavirus to limit the impact of the pandemic.
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